Yeah, not so much. I've got so far to go it's not even funny. I knew this was going to be a tough surgery to recover from and I was prepared for it. Or so I thought. I totally underestimated how much it would impact me physically and emotionally.
So here's a brief update. I've been drain free for 3 weeks and aside from a brief trip to the ER to rule out a blood clot in my leg I have had no complications. My incision is pretty much all sealed up aside from about an inch worth of scab (pretty amazing considering my incision is 28" long) and I am getting by with just occasional Tylenol. I'm still fairly swollen, especially at the end of the day, and my belly button still looks like I have a small bald man trapped in my stomach but the change is already pretty dramatic. I'm starting to wear real clothes again, work more, move more and get out of the house more. All good things, right?
So why am I such a hot mess still? I'm struggling to put it into words. I tried to explain the problems I was having and the major body issues I was struggling with to a friend the other night and she didn't get it. "But your stomach is flat now. What's the problem?" I've only told a few people how I've been feeling and most think I'm absolutely nuts. I'm going to try and do my best to explain because I think it's relevant to everything I've been working on to date. But if you, too, think I'm off my rocker you may want to keep that tidbit to yourself. I'm full up on disapproval right now.
Let's start with my appearance. I've literally spent almost all of the 6 weeks in huge sweat pants, oversize baggy shirts, no make-up, tweezer-free and frizzy, unkempt hair mode . You know, the natural look.
I had to wear a binder 24/7 around my mid-section for the first 3 weeks and then I graduated to compression shapewear like Spanx. My worst fashion nightmare was realized when I had to go into a dressing room and attempt to stuff myself into and then peel myself out of high waisted girdle after girdle trying to find something that didn't make me want to cry and wasn't going to suffocate me, knowing whatever I picked I would have to wear 24 hours a day. I was sweating and in pain and exhausted and literally went home to lie down after. In the car ride home I just shook my head and said, "And can you believe I used to be a group fitness instructor?" Spanx totally counts as a workout, right?
I went from working out 5-6 days a week to sweating when trying on Spanx or napping after a shower? The fatigue was something I really underestimated. I'm still struggling with it but it's getting better. The worst part of it, though, is not having the exercise I'm used to to keep my head straight. I felt like I was getting somewhere with this body gratitude stuff. Two steps forward, five steps back.
Here's a tiny glimpse in to the last 6 weeks (ask my husband):
"Oh my God. She took away all my curves. I'm not curvy anymore. Do I still look like I have hips? I look like I should be in the Texas Chainsaw movie with this scar. My legs look huge now. I look like a freak. Everywhere I go people will know I have had surgery because my stomach is flat and my legs are a ginormous. I don't even look normal in pants. They fit my thighs but now the crotch is empty. I have saggy crotch. No one likes saggy crotch. I could fit a whole penis in there now. Seriously - do I still look curvy?"
Side note - in the midst of all this crazy a friend of mine posted a picture on his Facebook page that I took exception to. He thought it was hilarious. I told him it was asshole-ish. This is the picture, except it had the caption, "Wingman of the Year".
I considered ignoring it but I really do like the guy enough to not want him to look like an asshole because I don't think he is one. When he asked what my problem was with it and I told him it was obvious it was just one big fat joke he promptly blocked me from seeing anything on his page but not before I saw him call me a bitch to someone else.
Could I have lost my sense of humor during all this recovery time? Perhaps. Might I be over-sensitive because of my current battle with body issues? It's definitely a possibility. But I'm also a straight shooter (and he knows this and has appreciated it in the past) who has spent decades battling weight and years working with people battling their own weight issues. And let's not forget that very early in this blog I swore I would always call a person out on a fat joke. Humorless bitch? I take great offense to the humorless part.
You know what is funny? I'm having what I've decided to call "Phantom Flap" issues. (Prior to surgery my son asked me, "What are you having surgery for again? Oh yeah, you're having your flap removed.") If you have ever had much of a belly you know the horrific moment when you feel your underwear slip down underneath your "flap" and you realize you'll have to find a private moment to try and excavate them from their depths. Assuming you can still find them. So I tell my friend (the same one mentioned previously who thinks I'm nuts) that I keep thinking I feel my underwear slip down below my flap and then I realize I have no flap and she text me a couple days later saying, "I've pulled my drawers out from my under my flap at least 30 times today and I've thought of you each time and cursed your name". I almost spit my coffee on my phone. I adore my friends. Except for the asshole-ish ones.
I'm not writing this blog to get you to feel bad for me. I know I asked for this and I should have known what I was getting into. I'm writing to once again remind you (and myself) that the answer to feeling good about yourself and finding self-worth is not external. Sure, those things help but they don't fix you. I wasn't looking for this surgery to fix my self-worth issues at all. I'm smarter than that and having been through a large weight loss and a different post-operative recovery I already knew this was a fact. I guess I just didn't expect it to make me feel worse than before. I did not anticipate going backwards.
Another good friend sent me an article called "What Losing 180 Pounds Really Does to Your Body - & Your Mind" by Jen Larsen that resonated with her and it made so much sense to me as well. I did not have weight loss surgery but I actually sympathize greatly with the topic. (So much so I already bought her book and started it.) I get her loss of "sense of self" and "sense of proportion". One quote that resonated with me was this: "I thought my body was wrong when I was obese; I thought my body was wrong when I was thin past the point of health." Granted, I'm no where near thin but just as I battled obsessive self-scrutiny when I lost weight the first time, I find myself doing it again now that I once more have changed my body into something unrecognizable to me. I'm out of my normal routine, still trying to find myself at home in my own body with all the physical changes, not able to combat stress with exercise and I can't remember the last time I felt pretty. Interestingly enough, I wasn't even able to use food as self-medication either. I'm not sure if it was the pain medication or the exhaustion or the compression-wear but I did not have a normal appetite for quite awhile. Definitely a blessing that I wasn't over-eating for stress relief but I wasn't doing anything else for relief either. I spent a lot of time alone in my room inside my head. NOT a good place to be. Or worse yet, standing in front of a mirror magnifying every flaw I have in order not to stare directly at that scabby place on my body where 9 lbs of my own flesh used to be.
I probably still haven't explained this right or I've come off sounding like a self-absorbed asshat. All I know is that I've gone backwards. I've been battling feelings of depression, anxiety, unworthiness and they are all related to me not recognizing myself anymore and not feeling anywhere close to pretty. My surgeon said this would be a doozy of a surgery. Doozy, indeed.
On the "pretty" note I ran across this video and it hit home with me. I wouldn't exactly say that poetry slamming is my thing but this is powerful. And no matter how many times I watch it the last 60 seconds or so get me every time. (Warming - there's an F-bomb dropped at the end so be careful at work.)
I sincerely hope you aren't reading my blog because you think I have the answers. Clearly I don't. But I'm looking for progress constantly and I want to share my experiences along the way with as much honesty as possible. And this is where I'm at right now. Surgery or no surgery, I still have so much work to do if a period of 6 weeks is enough to knock my self-worth back to square one.
Jen Larsen said "don't love yourself even though you're not perfect - love yourself because you have a body and it's worth loving and it is perfect." So back to the drawing board for me. I need to start practicing body gratitude again so you may see that pop up on my Facebook page. Today I am grateful for my body's amazing ability to heal after I've abused it so egregiously. I need to start moving every day again and I need to write more often. I've got to get back to the work of finding my own worth again. 6 weeks is enough of a hiatus.
And I'm going to be doing it all over again but this time in itty-bitty drawers. I may be a hot mess but that part worked out just fine.